I grew up in a very happy environment and had a happy childhood. My father was a daily drinker, which was quite normal in those days, and I think as a child and then teenager growing up you either reject it, or you accept it. It goes either way and for me alcohol became more and more acceptable as I grew up. For me alcohol became a very useful device socially, I would drink mainly when socialising and during parties through my early life and into my twenties. It became a very established part of my life. I think back on those days, I’m 52 now, and I was saying to myself I’m going to keep going with this to see if I can really get addicted.
When I look back it was a genuine question I asked myself and I still have not quite got the answer to why I asked that and why I gave myself that challenge to get addicted. In my teens and early twenties, I was very happy. I had a girlfriend and very happy family life, but there was this funny thing in my brain controlling events. Whether I used the word ‘addicted’ or not at the time I knew I wanted to carry on with drinking. It was something established and back in those days, in your twenties you don’t worry about it. You bounce out of bed in the mornings, you can bounce along all day, and you can carry on that next night again and it doesn’t affect you. It felt like a challenge.
there was this shift from Mr-nice-bloke in a pub to a darker thing happening.
My twenties were a steady drinking session. It was all social then with very little of it done in private. It was every day but it was controlled. I got married at thirty to my girlfriend and she was aware of it, but I was the ‘fun guy’, so I think she accepted it and that I was just a lot of fun. I was always in a lucky position because I could make people laugh a bit and on booze it made them laugh a bit more, I liked it. Maybe looking back that was a trigger, wanting to keep going and make people laugh because it seemed to make me a really great person.
After we got married we had four children. Then there was a change. I suppose the dynamic of the family and the relationships changed enormously. The ‘fun guy’ wasn’t so much required by my wife, my best friend, and I pushed her away. I had to find somewhere else to drink and to do what I was doing in private. This was a change I think, moving from my twenties and enjoying drinking and being the ‘fun guy’ turning into something that was a little darker. Things escalated very slowly. There started being conversations going on around the edges of my life about me and my drinking – about what it was. I could hear rumblings that people were showing concern and there was a bit of anger and people getting pissed off too. I started hearing comments, ‘this bloke seems to be a little bit pie eyed at the moment’ and it’s four o’clock in the afternoon.
I was drunk and had my son in the back of the car bringing him back from a football match.
There are a few incidents that show the move from light to dark in this period that stand out in my mind. I leapt out of a moving taxi while quite drunk to make everyone around me think I was very funny and in my mind quite brilliant. I jumped out when it was moving at quite a pace and I was lucky to not be badly hurt but it caused quite a lot of concern amongst my peers. Towards my late thirties these sort activities were escalating. I was moving away from being fun and chatty to displaying more ‘dare devil’ behaviour. I jumped off a building in Turkey when I was on holiday with a group of my friends and my wife. I broke my arm. This was all alcohol related and there was this shift from Mr-nice-bloke in a pub maybe having a chat and being a bit fun to a darker thing happening. There was a serious problem mounting.
On reflection I suppose I was trying to create a laughter, humour and the fun around me to make my life feel more fulfilled, to me it felt normal even though it was all alcohol related. That was my way of dealing with things but what it was actually doing was destroying relationships, friendships and causing a lot of concern but I didn’t see any of that. I ended up blinded by alcohol, which is such a powerful drug now I look back on it. It is an incredibly powerful and dominating liquid.
Things continued to get more dramatic through my thirties though I suppose the real crunch points came in my forties. The drinking went into quite astronomic sort of levels. Which resulted in a drink driving incident. I was drunk and had my son in the back of the car bringing him back from a football match. That was the depths of my low. It wasn’t great, the police had to attend, turn up at our house and take notes and that left my wife and family in a very sorry state. The behaviour had gone completely dark. The law had been broken and my child, my son put at risk. This hitting rock bottom was happening, all the while maintaining the appearance of a highly functioning person with a career, lots of traveling, lots of work and bringing money into my home and the business I worked for.
I was given an ultimatum by my wife that if things didn’t stop we would be getting divorced.
However, there was a massive relationship failure in my life and physical and mental failure of me as a human being. But it was managed, things were paid off things may have seemed ‘ok’, which was bizarre and stressful. The stress levels were so high but don’t realise at the time because the drink is taking the edge off it all. I was given an ultimatum, really fairly, by my wife that if things didn’t stop we would be getting divorced. But I didn’t stop at that point. It took a lot longer. A lot more of those conversations had to happen and a lot more drinking had to happen before I stopped. As I said I’d lost my driver’s license but I got it back after a year and had been able to keep my job. So I had to then create a way around that to keep drinking, so I’d drive back to the house after a day’s work and sit in the car and drink on the driveway. It could be two bottles of wine or sometimes even three before I came in the house. Then I could relax, I’d filled myself up and I could get through the evening. Obviously everyone could tell and smell it on me and the rumbles of concern around me got louder. My family were now beginning to really turn their backs on me. Everyone turned their backs on me more or less apart from my kids. It was really tough because I quite like my family and at one point they all liked me too so I’d lost a lot.
One day in April 2019 I said that would be it. I think the reason, or the trigger there, apart from the damage being done to my relationships was something my dad had said to me. He was a heavy drinker, but he had also been a smoker and had given up smoking a long time ago, he said to me that was ‘easiest thing he’d ever done’. To give up tobacco smoke after 40 years I thought was well amazing. It was a strange thought I had that morning, I woke up and everything had really crashed to the bottom – cars being driven drunk, falling out of things, jumping off things drinking a lot, and the thing that came into my mind was almost the absolute opposite of the feeling I had thirty years before, which was ‘I want to get addicted’ to ‘I now know I’ve got a solution’, not to be addicted because my dad did it… If he can give up fags, then I can do this. So that was the day I actually stopped. No one knew about it and no one heard about it from me, I didn’t tell a soul. I decided to make a change and quickly, things started to change…
Because of this change I am the happiest have ever been
The first thing that happened to me was my body changed. My sexual desires came back after being packed away for thirty years. My mind and thoughts were so clean fresh, almost like they had been stored away in a cave or something and had now been brought back into the light of day. My brain just went into a lovely space of clarity within weeks. It was the most extraordinary change. Because of this change I am the happiest have ever been because on that day I decided to do something different. It was as simple as that, it really is starting a day and doing something different that day.
That’s the power you get back, the power you give yourself as somebody coming away from a drugs or alcohol. Once you make that very simple decision to do something different that day, the world can be amazing and I can promise that to anyone thinking about making a change. It isn’t always easy, I have struggled and thought about a cold beer, who hasn’t, but it is about saying to yourself let’s do something different, let’s do it one day at time.
A GENUINE BIKE JOURNEY: August 2022
This change has motivated me to take a bunch of people like me, in recovery, on a genuine road bike cycle ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats, otherwise known as LEJOG. The idea is to celebrate life and living, and to show the world there can be a very different personal journey when recovering from addiction.
We are calling this bike journey “Breaking the Cycle” and it will consist of nearly 1000 miles of cycling on roads, over 7 to 9 days depending on rider speeds.
We would like to invite up to 20 riders from the Forward Trust programme to join us on this incredible trip.
We have only one rule: “no spending”.
This will be a tough task, requiring a high level of fitness as we will be covering around 120 miles a day to ensure we can complete the trip in 9 days or less. The plan is to secure a support vehicle with spare bike parts, sleeping bags and food, but otherwise we will be on our own, toughing it out on the road! Helping and supporting each other on every inch of road travelled will be essential – we will all have our good days and bad days!
In any case, whoever joins this event must be on a genuine journey themselves, because we want to create a genuine story throughout. Anything less than that, and it will become a whimsical holiday for a few cyclists – and that is not the point! If that happens the whole thing will be a waste of time, become a bit of joke and we will not get the right support!
This is really important: it is a genuine journey from start to finish supporting a genuine cause.
We have arranged accommodation throughout the journey and the Church of England will be helping us here.
Planned dates in 2022:
August 27 depart Land’s End
September 4 last group arrives at John O’Groats.
Each participant is expected to raise at least £1000 to continue the amazing work of the Forward Trust.
We will be securing press coverage nationally, and using social media to document the trip as we plan and train and while travelling across the country.
If you want to apply for a place or discuss further, please email: Ben Lane on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07956 899 806
Ben aims for the ride to help raise awareness, break stigma and celebrate life and living. Find out more and follow his journey here.